A Posi-Tone Twofer: Tarbaby and Ehud Asherie (2010)
What a stellar year it's been for Posi-Tone Records. They've generated record after record of honest-to-goodness mainstream jazz done with taste, style, with exceptional sidemen and flawless production. After reviewing zero releases prior to 2010, we've now given our impressions on a dozen releases, eleven of them 2010 releases. However, Posi-Tone isn't done yet, and recently there came forth a couple more records from this jazz factory that I just can't ignore.
These two CD's revisit some artists who've already had albums out this year, but are already back for more. When guys get on a roll, the last thing you want to do is stop 'em. They are keeping my ears and keyboard very busy, but I think I can live with some more delectable jazz to write about...
The End Of Fear
The first Posi-Tone release examined here is one of their recent best; a phenomenal piano trio record by Orrin Evans called Faith In Action. Recently he and the drummer for most of that album, Nasheet Waits, joined forces with bassist Eric Revis to form the cooperative trio Tarbaby.
Waits is not a stranger to this site, he seems to be a participant in so many notable jazz records of late. Revis is a favorite bassist of Branford Marsalis, having played on many of his albums since 1997's Music Evolution. He's also recorded with Jeff Tain" Watts, Raul Midón and Evans. Thus, it's fair to call Tarbaby a supergroup of three of the finest from current crop of jazz players.
Since this is a trio that includes a rhythm section who have played on several Orrin Evans releases, it seems to indicate that this is really an Orrin Evans record in disguise, but that's not the case at all here. All three share almost equally in contributing songs (a couple of the songs were even composed by all three players). Furthermore, joining the three for some of the tracks are a supergroup of horn players: J.D. Allen on tenor sax, Oliver Lake on alto sax and Nicholas Payton on trumpet.
This is a record that is very tradition-minded, but approaches tradition in a loose, adventurous manner...much like a Branford Marsalis record. They conjure up short interesting ideas and wisely keep them short and interesting ("E-Math," Heads," Tails"). They honor Thelonious Monk by playing an original, tottering blues that clearly owes debt to him ("Brews"). Lake's old standby, the wonderfully advanced bop of November '80" is taken on with authority, and the band even performs a blistering, 78 second run of a Bad Brains song ("Sailin' On").
Waits' Hesitation" is free-flowing, but not quite free. A sweeping showcase for Payton, this song, the acclaimed trumpet player plays with much emotion, nuance and poise. Tails," on the other hand, really is free, with Revis sawing away on the bass as J.D. Allen spends two minutes searching for that elusive melody. Tough Love" has a tense undercurrent and all three horns players improvising together, and jousting at times with Evans. Paul Motian's Abacus" is a testament to the virtue of a dispersed, relaxed performance, done in the ECM way. Revis' bass is the lead voice for the entire track, and he makes his instrument function almost like an extension of a human voice.
The End Of Fear, which hit the streets last September 28, makes Tarbaby is a summit meeting where the sum is greater than the parts because of the high comfort level among the three, as well as the determination to make this a fun session while making some seriously good jazz.
Ehud Asherie's Modern Life presented Asherie as a plenty competent jazz pianist inspired primarily by many of the piano greats who came before Bill Evans. The delightful release, which also treated us to the sweet tenor of Harry Allen, came out last March and we offered some observations on it back then. Just eight months later on November 2nd, Asherie was already back with another new CD, but this one is quite different from Modern Life. Organic, as its called, uses an entirely different personnel, but the biggest distinction comes from Asherie using an entirely instrument: the piano is changed out for a Hammond B-3 organ.
Backed by Dmitry Baevsky on alto sax, Phil Stewart on drums and Peter Bernstein on guitar, Asherie makes a soul-jazz record. Turns out, though it might his first organ record, he's pretty good at it.
There are hints that he's gotten a firm handle on this style found on the acoustic piano records like Modern Life: his flair for melodic invention and soulful chromatics made the transition over to the richer, more diverse sound of a B-3 a natural move for him. Like Ehud Asherie the pianist, Ehud Asherie the organist never gets overheated; he'd much rather swing gently than sizzle overtly, and he does that particularly well on his original Valse Pra Jelena." For Sonny Rollins' The Stopper" his fleet lines races along fluently in the bop language.
Outside of Benson and Martino, Asherie couldn't have made a better choice for an organ combo guitarist. Bernstein's guitar has such an easygoing swing to it, and a dulcet tone to match. Some of the best evidence of that can be found on It's Possible." He can also play it cool and soulful Kenny Burrell style, as he does on Coquette." Baevsky only appears on some of the tracks, but he makes the most of his time there, blowing big happy tones reminiscent of Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons. The album goes out with a bang: Asherie's Blues For Fats" is a finger-snapping delight, as he attacks his B-3 with the controlled ferocity of Baby Face Willette.
Organic is Asherie's fourth for Posi-Tone and fifth overall, but you can also think of it as a debut of sorts, as this is his first one on the organ. It's a very auspicious debut at that.